Daines Secures Vital Reforms to Ensure On-Time Federal Grain Inspections for Montana Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines today announced that he has secured key reforms to the United States Grain Standards Act to ensure Montana farmers are protected from disruptions in federally mandated grain inspections, like what occurred last summer at the Port of Vancouver.

The Senate Agriculture Committee today passed the United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, which contains provisions authored by Daines to maintain continuous required grain inspection for farmers, ranchers and producers. The legislation was passed with a strong bipartisan vote, clearing the way for full Senate consideration.

“Montana farmers and ranchers deserve certainty that they can get their crops to the market without any interruptions,” Daines states. “Last year’s delayed inspections at the Port of Vancouver directly threatened the livelihoods of Montana farmers, which is why it’s critical that the USDA immediately and transparently address any future disruptions to the inspections process. I’m pleased that the Senate Agriculture Committee has included my proposal to protect Montana farmers from future disruptions and ensure normal shipments are maintained, and I call for swift consideration and passage of this important legislation.

This spring, Daines sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders calling on the Committee to include language in the United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act that works to ensure timely and efficient grain inspections from USDA are conducted so that normal shipments of Montana grain can continue uninterrupted. Daines’ letter is available here.

“Senator Daines has been a strong advocate for Montana grain producers affected by last year’s disruption in Federal Grain Inspection services at the Port of Vancouver and we appreciate his engagement on this issue,” Lola Raska, Montana Grain Growers Association Executive Vice President stated. “Our farmers grow over 200 million bushels of wheat every year with the vast majority destined for Pacific Northwest grain terminals where it is loaded on barges for shipment to our overseas customers. Federal grain inspection is a required step in this process and Steve fully understands that any disruption in this service threatens the reputation of Montana and the U.S. as a reliable international trading partner and source of grain for the world.”

“I thank Senator Daines’ for his support and assistance with the successful passage of the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act in the Agriculture Committee today,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts stated. “I certainly appreciate his perspective from such an important agriculture exporting state like Montana.”

Daines’ provisions included in the United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act of 2015:

  • In the event of a disruption, the Secretary is required to immediately take actions as are necessary to address the disruption and resume inspections or weighing
  • If the disruption persists, the Secretary is required to notify Congress within 24 hours of a disruption, including a report that describes any actions necessary so that inspections may resume
  • Requires the Secretary provide daily updates for the duration of any disruption

Other key provisions in the Act include:

  • Creates a certification process that state agencies must go through prior to being allowed to inspect or weigh grain on behalf of the Federal Grain Inspection Service
  • Requires certification for state delegated agencies to be renewed every 5 years
  • Should a state delegated agency discontinue service, the agency is required to provide USDA with a 72 hour advance notice prior to a non-disaster related disruption
  • Requires an extensive report into what happened during the disruption in inspections at the Port of Vancouver in 2014

Daines has been vocal in expressing his frustration on USDA’s failure to conduct federally mandated grain inspections in a timely manner at the Port of Vancouver for several weeks last summer – recently pressing USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to release safety reports conducted during the shutdown. In the House, Daines fought for the immediate resumption of grain inspections at the Port of Vancouver after inspections stopped due to labor disputes.

Bulk wheat is Montana’s largest export. Montana farmers grow and export more than 150 million bushels of wheat each year. More than half of that wheat was purchased by Japan. Other markets for Montana wheat include Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The full text of the legislation is available here.